Simply put, marijuana legalization would make it legal for citizens to consume cannabis for both medical and recreational purposes. Though medical marijuana is legal in most of North America, its recreational use has only been legalized in four states and Washington, DC. It is still prohibited in all of Canada. This means that if you’re not in one of those few states, you can be charged for consuming cannabis without a marijuana prescription, even if you’re only using it for medicinal purposes.
However slow the road to marijuana legalization has been in North America, head way is being made. Citizens are increasingly siding with legalization. A 2014 Gallup survey suggests 51% of US citizens now support legalization—which is a big step up from the mere 12% in favour of it in 1970. With all the evidence we have on marijuana today, prohibition just doesn’t make sense anymore. After all, cannabis is safe, natural, and medically beneficial.
The Arguments against Legalization
Opponents believe that legalizing cannabis will only lead to trouble. They believe that it will provide easier access to the drug for teens and serve as a gateway to other drugs. They think cannabis has too many negative health and psychological effects and that there isn’t enough research conducted on the subject to prove its effectiveness for medical purposes.
The Arguments for Legalization
On a legal and political level, pro-marijuana advocates argue that governments can make a killing off marijuana legalization: they can generate tax revenues and create jobs with a legal, regulated cannabis market. They will also save money from the court and prison costs that will be eliminated once citizens stop being arrested with simple marijuana possession charges. They also argue that most of these charges are racially skewed, and legalization will help to eliminate this problem. Governments will also be able to move their costly resources from the losing war on drugs to more useful government programs.
They also contend that legalizing cannabis will actually lower the risk of teens having access to it—since it won’t be a profitable illegal business anymore, street dealers will inevitably lose interest in the trade, making it more difficult for young citizens to get their hands on it. Drug cartels will lose revenue in the black market through its illegal sales. Advocates argue that marijuana legalization can be the best way to actually fight drug cartels in the nation. Current strategies have not worked, but legalization might just be the answer.
From a health perspective, advocates argue that marijuana is actually safer than other legal products, such as alcohol and tobacco and that the side effects are minimal at best.
From a medical perspective, they fight back about the opponent’s claim that there isn’t even evidence proving therapeutic benefits by arguing that the current laws are what’s prohibiting scientists from conducting the trials that will prove its effectiveness. The few trials that have been conducted thus far have all shown positive effects for patients.
Tightly regulated, marijuana legalization could boost the nation’s economy, generate tax revenue, create jobs, and push drug cartels out of the country. It can also provide relief from pain and debilitating symptoms for many patients who aren’t finding effective treatment using often dangerous and addictive pharmaceutical drugs.
Though some progress has been made on this issue given that some states have begun to legalize cannabis and more citizens are seeing its benefits, there is still a long way to go for national legalization in North America. Nonetheless, supporters will continue to advocate and campaign for legalization in the future.